tv Rock Center With Brian Williams NBC November 28, 2011 10:00pm-11:00pm EST
in a lot of areas of the country it's a big night for us, actually. flunking the test. it's the biggest school cheating scandal in american history but it's not the students this time it's the teachers. >> they get together and change answers. >> teach weirs get together at somebody's house and literally sit there together and change answers on these tests? >> yes. >> yes. the second revolution. this was election day in egypt and richard engel reports on the founders of the arab spring. why they're very worried, perhaps the rest of us should be too. also tonight, the president's body man. reggie love has been right there for nearly every moment of the last four years. tonight, he's here in our studio with us to share his story. the things you may not know about the most famous christmas tree in the world. right off here on "rock center." that and more as "rock center"
begins right now. good evening. we've seen some of the horror stories these past several days during the thanksgiving break. a frenzied shopping, the people lining up and storming the stores at midnight to take advantage of those black friday sale prices. the mad rush at the stroke of midnight. but later this week, in fact, the day after tomorrow on the 1st day of december, something similar will happen. there won't likely be cameras there to record it. it's a different kind of surge of people and it happens year-round. because these folks are putting food on the table. what you're about to see is a fact of life for the close to 100 million americans living near or below the poverty line in this country. tonight, kate snow shows us how a lot of families begin each month with a humbling but necessary midnight run. >> reporter: bekaa reader is nearly out of food.
>> there's no milk. no milk. >> reporter: she's out of money to buy more. >> just water, bacon grease for the dogs' food, and a little apple juice. we got two different kinds of cheeses and tortillas. there you go. quesadilla. >> reporter: bekaa, husband t.j., and 2-year-old son miles will have to hang on for six more days until the 1st of the month. that's when they'll get the cash to go food shopping. it's the same for james dougherty and jessica postma. they live in the same idaho town, nampa. they're also out of food and waiting for the moment they learn there's money in their account to feed themselves and the five children in their blended family. >> we are calling the qwest card line to see what our balance is. >> one moment please. >> reporter: >> reporter: they get word --
>> your balance is $691.00. >> a great big like, ah! >> reporter: it's 12:01 a.m. and now they can go shopping. the money they've been waiting for isn't from a paycheck. it's a month's worth of government assistance from the food stamp program, now called s.n.a.p. the s.n.a.p. money had struck the account at 4:12 a.m. that's when she shops for that precious milk for her son. you can almost see her cringe when she admits she's paying with food stamps. when you go to use yours do you probably show it and swipe it? >> no. i actually have my little technique i usually take my palm of my hand and cover the hard with the palm of my hand so you can't see the top of it when i'm swiping it so the person behind me in line -- >> reporter: so they won't know? are you embarrassed? >> it's pretty embarrassing, yeah. >> reporter: a staggering number
of american families now rely on food stamps to feed their children. that number has gone up 37% in the last two years to nearly 47 million. so many people are shopping the instant they get their assistance that it's changed the way walmart, the nation's largest retailer, does business. >> a few years back we started seeing that our customers were literally sometimes at midnight were really showing up in our stores. >> reporter: on the 1st of the month? >> yes. >> reporter: carol johnston is walmart's senior vice president of store operations. you literally bring on more staff on the 1st of the month because you noticed this spike? >> yes. we also make sure our registers are open. some people think at 12:01, walmart's quiet. in a lot of our areas of the country 12:01 is a big night for us, actually. >> reporter: it's been a tough two years in idaho where both families share the same circumstances.
they're not chronically unemployed. they're working people who just can't make it. >> we're not the habitual abusers of the system. this is to stabilize our family and to help give us a platform to launch ourselves into being able to do it ourselves. >> reporter: when we met, jessica was working as a supervisor at a large national call center in the area, making $13.50 an hour. she lost that job just last week. but found a new one making less. james, who has a background in banking and sales training, had been out of work for two months. he started taking customer service calls from home for a tech company that pays $8.50 an hour. with rent, utilities, gas for their car and child support, there's nothing left for food. at what point did you say, we're going to have to reach out for help? >> probably when we realized we weren't going to have a place to live if we didn't. >> reporter: is it humbling to have to ask for help? >> it is humbling. >> there's always a negative
stigma attached to it. unfortunately, you know, our economy is so downtrodden right now. and the cultural paradigm or the belief system around it hasn't quite caught up to where we're at. where reality has put us. >> reporter: what is reality right now? >> reality is that there's not enough income. >> reporter: some months are more challenging than others. at the end of october, the youngest in their family, paige turned 5. the family's diva requested a hollywood theme and a homemade cake. ♪ happy birthday to you ♪ >> reporter: for weeks beforehand, jessica squirrelled away extra money so she could afford ingredients to make the cake and food for their guests. ♪ happy birthday to you ♪ >> reporter: a lot of unexpected requests from kids just can't be met. >> we had gone to parent/teacher conferences at middle school for my oldest and he mentioned that the book fair was going on, and there was a book he wanted.
it was between paydays. smack dab in the middle. there was no way. we were already struggling to make it through the week. i had to told him now. i told him, when we're back on our feet i'll definitely get you the book. >> reporter: how much was the book? >> 10 bucks. across town bekaa and t.j. are force to make similar choices. they couldn't find work. now bekaa is a stay at home mom and t.j. is commuting an hour and a half round-trip to a part-time job flipping burgers where he makes $8.50 an hour. >> i had to talk to my dad and ask him for money. i'm trying to figure out how i'm going to give him the money back and still make things work here. we keep digging ourselves deeper into debt. >> reporter: why doesn't t.j. just get a second job? he says he's caught in a catch-22. >> i thought about getting another job but that brings up a different income bracket with the food stamps. and --
>> reporter: then you'd lose your assistance? >> yeah, there's a fine line in there, there really is. >> reporter: like james and jessica they worry about providing for their son. >> i wish we could do more stuff. like his grandparents get to take him to the zoo and stuff. it's just stuff i always imagined to provide for my son. being able to do all the stuff that kids should be able to do. >> reporter: because there's not enough money? >> no, there isn't. >> reporter: i see it. what's the feeling behind those tears? >> you think about like growing up, like you said, you get the opportunity to go play sports. things like that. you don't think about that. like it costs money to do those. and just worry about when he gets older. >> reporter: worry about what? >> what if he comes home and says, i want to play soccer. it's like -- okay, what are we selling? what do we have in our house
that we can sell? >> reporter: what do you want for miles? >> i want him to never, ever be in this situation. never. i don't want -- i want -- i want to be able to get out of this situation before he gets old enough to realize what's going on and mommy and daddy want pay for food on our own and we aren't making it on our own. >> that's my thought exactly. >> reporter: do you have any hope that it's going to get better? >> i think it's going to get worse before it gets better but i do hope. that's all i can really do right now is hope. >> kate, some of the time we put our stories on our website before they air. we did that with yours. and it has lit up social media already. and here's some of the comments. they have phones. some of them have a nice suv. everybody seems to have a flat-screen tv. a lot of folks don't seem to be visually going without. >> right. and this ignites, as you know, a huge political argument.
some people saying on our website, on facebook today, that maybe fewer people should be getting assistance, fewer working people, they should get a second job. on the other hand, people who want to help, who want to buy the book for the couple that couldn't afford the book. but i think it comes down to, these are working families. they have qualified under the idaho state program for this form of assistance. you can have a certain number of assets under that program. idaho, it's $5,000 worth of assets. they do a calculation. and let's not forget there are 46 million americans on food stamps right now. that's 15% of the population, brian, on food stamps. all those people have qualified under their state rules, whether you like that or not. >> a whole bunch of folks when they see that card being swiped and realize where the money is and people have always been judgmental about what's purchased. >> right. and both these families were adamant in telling us, if you looked they buy a lot of vegetables, a lot of frozen things, frozen meat, big packs
of family meat that they can put in the freezer, they're very conscious of trying to make things last and trying to be as healthy as they can be. as you know, the cheapest food tends to be not so healthy. >> the midnight run. invisible to a lot of people unless you're involved in it. kate snow, thank you very much. whenwe come back, she helped to found egypt's pro-democracy movement. so why didn't she bother to vote in today's election? richard engel will have the answer from his report from cairo. a bit later on tonight, parents speak out about the massive cheat is scandal in the atlanta public schools. >> worst case of black on black crime that i've ever seen. >> how teachers and school officials failed the chirp they are supposed to educate.
welcome back to "rock center." as you know the situation in egypt has been off the hook. a lot of violence for mostly the past ten days. and today was election day there. egyptians voted in record numbers. the problem is, a lot of veterans of the revolution that ousted mubarak are deeply disillusioned now and fearful of the election results.
richard engel is back in egypt where he once lived, where we all covered the uprising this past winter. he's been talking to the protestest who say what they are fighting now is indeed egypt's second revolution. >> reporter: egypt's hopes for a smooth transfer to democracy are now often hidden somewhere behind the clouds of tear gas in tahrir square. and caught in the middle of all this, the 37-year-old woman who is perhaps the mother of egypt's revolution. >> all this chaos is because of the military, nothing else. >> reporter: the single mother and former cairo high school teacher decided she'd had enough of corruption and police brutality. >> hi. >> how are you? >> reporter: we first met her last february after she organized an internet-linked network of young professionals
that ended up helping topple president mubarak. now, ten months later, she brings her 10-year-old daughter to the square for a second revolution. but all the tear gas is taking a toll. she was hospitalized last week and now uses an inhaler. what do you want now? what is the point of this second revolution? >> we want them to pass over power to civilians. we want them to be doing their jobs as the army. not to rule the country. >> reporter: but the timing of her new protests is somewhat peculiar. because today the transition to democracy did finally begin. egyptians went out to vote. but she isn't taking part. you fought so hard to bring democracy to this country. now egypt is having its first free election in 30 years. yet you don't want to participate. why?
>> no. because i don't believe in these free election. the military. no. >> reporter: aren't you going to be watching other people win and other people benefit from your work? >> we have no other options. >> reporter: the primary beneficiaries of the boycott could be her opponents. egypt's islamist party, the muslim brotherhood. the brotherhood was banned under mubarak. it's often anti-american and definitely anti-israel. but it had deep pockets. it just built a palatial new headquarters. and its power is undeniable. just listen to people we spoke to at a polling station today. do you mind if i ask who you're voting for? >> brotherhood. >> reporter: you're going to vote for the brotherhood? >> reporter: that benefits candidates like mohammad sayid. >> do you think the same is going to happen here? >> yes. >> you think it will? why? >> because this is the choice of
the people. they like the islamic parties. the people want the islamic parties, why not? >> reporter: the 36 yelled mba wants egyptians and americans to know they have nothing to fear from the brotherhood, not even israel's peace treaty is as risk, he says. >> i know that in the western u.s., that the image, the positioning of the muslim brotherhood, is that maybe it's not like myself. some people who are considered as terrorists. no, we are really respect democracy, freedom, our party name is freedom and we are really want to include that in our country. >> reporter: aren't you worried that you and other student activists have set the table and now the muslim brotherhood is going to come in and take the prize? >> i'm sure. but sometime we will win. >> reporter: even if you lose this first election?
>> yes, even if we lose this election. these are not our elections. >> reporter: but high pressure young activists may be marginalized in egypt's future. a future the muslim brotherhood appears set to dominate. >> richard engel with us live from could i i don't tonight. richard, i know as a young college graduate when you moved to cairo to learn the area, you were in a muslim brotherhood neighborhood. in this day and age, people in this country hear that, they don't know what to think, and they are worried about what comes out of this elections. what should people know about the modern-day state of this group? >> reporter: well, i think people should be very worried. it is a group that on the ground does a lot of charitable activities, it helps people in egypt, it helps the poor. if you have a problem in your community, you can go to the muslim brotherhood. they'll be honest. but they don't have the same world view as most americans. they don't share the same view certainly of foreign policy.
if the muslim brotherhood did take a more powerful position in this country egypt would no longer be a reliable partner if there was a crisis that involved the united states and israel, for example, egypt would certainly be on the other side of that argument. so it would be a very significant break in egyptian/american relations. >> when is the first we will know about the chief message, the thrust of these election results? >> reporter: this process is going to take months. we'll have some early indications on wednesday. but this is going to take about a year before it plays out. >> richard engel in cairo for us tonight, richard, thanks again. and as always for your reporting. we'll take another break here. when we come back, violence, clashes with security forces. the use of pepper spray to suppress an angry mob. and we're just talking about christmas shopping.
we're back. and actually, we're all back from the thanksgiving break. ronnie pauldoro of our staff took video at his family thanksgiving. and this to us looked like a lot of family thanksgivings. including his cousin vincent in a post-turkey coma on the couch. while vincent probably isn't thrilled with us right about now, it happens it's okay to do that on thanksgiving. knowing that we are guessing some folks missed some of the stories in the news. and that's what we're here for, to get you caught up with
current events and curt trends. again with the pepper spray. even while the artistic depictions of the now-famous cop at uc davis are still pouring in now we have the walmart incident. a woman has copped to using pepper spray to disperse the crowd of frantic black friday shoppers. mind you, she was a shopper too. and just wanted to get at the video games everybody was tearing into. it might just be time we reconsidered pepper spray. it's been sold for years in army surplus stores and shops and bodegas in big cities, mostly marketed at women to keep in their purse for protection. the cops have a much higher concentration with the consistency of spray paint. it's as if people have forgotten or never knew, it's a serious weapon, temporarily crippling, debilitating and painful. so how about we holster the pepper spray at least to get through the holiday season. moving on to the recent death of andrea true.
we're going to let the music do a slow build so those of a certain age who lived through and survived the disco era can hear ones more one of the iconic, pulsating songs of that time. ♪ how do you like it how do you like it ♪ >> reporter: that last verse makes more sense when you learn that andrea true was doing porn before she turned to music to make extra money. the song made her a fortune. throat surgery ended her singing career. so off she went into real estate, substance abuse counseling and telemarketing. the song still comes on every so often and when it does we will remember andrea true, gone at the age of 68. now to politics. if you want to guess how dirty this campaign will be, listen to this romney ad. >> if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose. >> reporter: you might think they've got him there. obama got zinged by romney. but wait, no, he didn't. hears what obama actually said.
>> senator mccain's campaign actually said, and i quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose. >> reporter: he was talking about john mccain's strategy in the last election. but this campaign season, that doesn't seem to matter. romney's spokesperson said they're not going to take their foot off the gas. and just today the dnc went back at romney in the new ad on his flip-flops on abortion and health care, et cetera. by the way, romney's not the nominee. and with 36 days to go until iowa, with gingrich surging a bit in new hampshire, and with herman cain just today denying a new allegation of a 13-year consensual affair with a woman from atlanta, it's an unsettled gop slate. here's one to wrap your head around. bill murray, who is playing fdr in an upcoming film, ran into president obama at a college basketball game this weekend. murray's son is on the coaching staff at townsend. they were playing oregon state,
coached by the first lady's brother. in aviation news, one more look at the crash of a hovering chopper in new zealand. as you do, remember the pilot walked away, everyone on the ground was okay. incredible, really, including the sound of it. but now watch highlighted man. part of the ground crew. he seems to be trying to snap or jerk a cable around to another side when we hear that sound like a rifle shot. and that is apparently how you bring down a chopper by hand. >> and liftoff. >> reporter: on the other hand, there won't be any humans around to screw up the landing of the mars rover curiosity. it took off a few days pack and it won't get there until august. and the nasa animation shows a very dramatic landing. screeching toward the surface until it stops to hover and drop the vehicle gently down to mars. what could possibly go wrong? just some of the stuff we thought you ought to know. as they say back up here on earth, after another break we go
to atlanta. what's being called the largest cheating scandal in the country and the students are innocent here. this one is on the teachers, the adults. later, he has survived the pressure of proximity to the presidency for three years. let's see if we can get him to crack under our hot studio lights. the president's long-time body man, reggie love, will be here with us.
or hires another employee, it's not just good for business. it's good for the entire community. at bank of america we know the impact that local businesses have on communities. that's why we extended $13.2 billion to small businesses across the country so far this year. because the more we help them, the more we help make opportunity possible.
new york were charged with hiring stand-ins to take their s.a.t.s for them. there is a huge cheating scandal in atlanta as well. but as we said, this one's on the grown-ups. the adults and administrators. they're accused of cheating on tests in about half of the 100 schools in that system. this is being called the largest cheating scandal in american history, in fact. and harry smith went there to find out how it is so many adults are flunking the test. >> reporter: for most of the last decade the city of atlanta one of its biggest problems. in a stunning and celebrated reversal the long-struggling school system was finally making the grade. >> now i get it. >> reporter: katim served on the school board eight years. >> as scores started to go up in the atlanta school system what was your thought? >> hm. i think much like everyone else in the city. i wanted to believe that atlanta
was defying the odds. >> reporter: much of the credit for defying those odds went to dr. beverly hall, named the 2009 national school superintendent of the year. >> what kind of shape were the schools in when you got here? >> i found there were a lot of low expectations for the children. and for the success of the school district. and so there was a need for a complete transformation. >> reporter: year after year, that transformation took place. and the proof? rising math and reading scores in grades 1 through 8. but with the scores came warnings. red flags that the scores on standardized tests were too good to be true. >> i was sort of being pulled into the corner busy teachers and administrators who were trying to tell me that things that were going on in the system weren't as they seemed. and, you know, because i wanted to believe that we were on the right track and we were doing the right things, i dismissed it. >> reporter: those concerns were
not dismissed by the "atlanta journal-constitution" which raised lots of questions about the surprising test results. >> there was a school there in the math tests, 830th out of 1,200 in the state of georgia, the next year they're first? and that gets ignored? >> reporter: bob wilson is a former dekalb county district attorney. mike bowers, a former state attorney general. in august of 2010, governor sonny purdue appointed them to a team of special investigators and early on, they visited a school where a teacher confessed. >> she said there was cheating, it had been going on since '01, she spilled the beans. she laid it all out. >> reporter: what that teacher laid out was this. it wasn't the students that were cheating, it was the teachers. it was principals. and one of the ways they cheated was by using a number 2 pencil. especially the eraser.
>> there were parties at which teachers would get together on the weekends when these tests were supposed to be in a secure location and they would get together and change answers. >> no question -- >> reporter: hang on a second. like get together, teachers would get together -- >> someone's home. >> reporter: at somebody's house, literally sit there and change answers on these tests? >> yes. >> yes. >> reporter: on the tests, taken by first through eighth graders there was an astounding number of wrong to right erasers on answer sheets, statistically impossible to achieve without help. government investigators ultimately found 178 teachers and principals had cheated in 44 different schools across the atlanta system. >> the sense in this community now is dr. hall knew about this stuff and her number one priority was to sweep it under the carpet and protect her image.
>> i did not know. and if i ever knew it would have been dealt with. >> reporter: but the governor's investigators concluded dr. hall either knew or should have known about cheating. investigators say she created the pressure from the top to push the schools and help herself. >> it brought a lot of praise to the system, the scores did. it brought a lot of praise to dr. hall. unfortunately it was on false numbers. >> reporter: it wasn't just erasing that raised the numbers. investigators also heard how principals ordered teachers to lead students to the right answers. using verbal cues or visual prompts. >> just point. >> reporter: tonette hunter was a teaching assistant at scott elementary school. >> reporter: you don't have to say anything? >> just point to the right answer. just point to the right answer. at this point i asked her, is that going to help the kids? she told me i was stepping over my boundary and i need to think
about my check and my salary. >> reporter: you didn't cheat? >> no i didn't cheat. >> reporter: after complaining to supervisors and getting no response hunter was fired, two days before the end of the school year. the investigators accused dr. hall of ruling by fear and intimidation. under oath, she told them her philosophy was this. no exceptions and no excuses. >> i can't imagine where the fear and intimidation came from. it certainly did not come from the top. i just -- you know, i just can't see where adults would be able to use that as an excuse. >> reporter: dr. hall put in place a program of academic targets. new standards her schools had to meet. if they met the targets school employees got bonuses, amounts of $50,000 to $2,000. dr. hall earned $85,000 in bonuses during her 12 years in the atlanta school system. >> she put those targets for
these schools. meet those targets or i'll find somebody who will. >> reporter: once the investigators described the full scope of the cheating it was all too much for katim, who at one point was chairman of the atlanta school board. so in july, in a very public and emotional speech, he resigned. >> i failed to protect thousands of children -- >> reporter: i saw a tape of your speech when you resigned from the school board. and one of the things you said was, i failed to protect thousands of children. children who come from homes like mine. >> that's where it really starts to get hard. and to know that i was a part of a board that looked the other way. and we got what we got. and that's a widespread cheating scandal in the school system. it just absolutely -- just --
just -- yeah. >> reporter: during his resignation, he singled out a particular parent, a pta mom who consistently demanded answers from administrators and teachers about what was going on in the atlanta schools. >> and i just hope that this board and everyone else heard her. >> reporter: so who was in this school? >> my son. >> reporter: that parent is shauna hayes tavaris. she graduated from atlanta public schooled, as did one of her daughters. her three other children were at schools where investigators say cheating occurred. >> reporter: you categorize what happened in the schools here as criminal. what did you call it? >> the worst case of black on black crime i've ever seen. the majority of the students were black, the majority of the teachers, administrators, board members. this investigation just made it clear who did it. >> reporter: how did you explain this to your own children? >> what i try to do is let my children know that they were okay. that they were fine. these were adult issues.
that it had nothing to do with them. they do their best, study hard, work hard. it didn't have anything to do with their intelligence. >> at the end of the day they basically say the responsibility for this is yours. do you accept that responsibility? >> i accept the responsibility for not anticipating that we needed more security and more protocol. but ultimately, the person who cheated is the person who is responsible for their actions. >> reporter: when you look at what happened in the atlanta schools, who deserves the blame? >> we all do. and i ask myself, how could we all be so complicit to this? how could we all sort of take part in short-changing so many children, and for no one, no one, no one wants to take the responsibility? i just can't understand it. >> harry smith, when you widen out from atlanta, for as bad as
this is, and this slimes everybody that comes near it, guilty or innocent, this is also going on in a lot of other places. >> that's one of the reasons we picked atlanta, because they did this painstaking search through the school system to root out this crime. but the fact is, this is going on in dozens of school districts all over the country, even as we speak. >> is one of the markers of our age, speaking to one of the questions you asked, is one of the markers of our age going to be the scarcity of people willing to say -- >> the buck stops here. >> i got this one, it's on me, this was on my watch, it's on me. >> i wonder sometimes if in beverly hall's case, she did a remarkable job in many ways of turning around the schools. some of the standardized tests. the grades hold up. things improved in a lot of different ways. but there was a cancer there. she had the opportunity to really root it out and get rid of it. and somehow, it slipped past her. >> she had the opportunity to answer that question differently as well. >> indeed.
>> harry smith, thank you as always. you can find out more of our reporting on the depth of the investigation into this scandal and how they went at it. rockcenter and nbc.com. up next here tonight, the keeper of the secrets. there were some days he spent more time with the president than the first family did. tonight our interview with the guy they call the body man. .
welcome back. if you've been paying any attention at all to the president these three years, then you've seen the guy right behind him. often mistaken for a secret service agent, he is reggie love, the body man. and that means sherpa, confidant, portable desk, and a better than average basketball player. >> when he's on my team, i say to reggie, don't shoot. >> reggie love played at duke under coach k. which may have instilled the discipline he's needed all these years at the president's side. he'll need it again as he seeks an mba at the wharton school. every president in the modern era has had a body man. the official title, special assistant to the president. unofficially they do example. when the president wasn't on the move somewhere, reggie sat right outside the oval office and he saw it all and heard it all. >> there are times where i'm not so calm.
reggie love knows. my wife knows. >> he famously carried the president's sharppies andal alal alal cell phones and children on occasion. the two men became very close. the president has referred to reggie as the little brother he never had. reggie love with us in the studio. what are you possibly going to do to fill your time after what you're used to now, and the pace of life? >> i don't think anything can possibly fill the void that will be left by me leaving the white house. i do think that there's still a lot of things that i haven't been able to do just because i've been so committed to the job and to the campaign. i missed a lot of thanksgivings a lot of christmases. so hopefully i'll get a chance to spend more time with my family. more time with a girlfriend. and hopefully, you know, get to enjoy life a bit.
>> you're a very discreet person anyway. and if you're going to do this job, i've known several of the body men over the years. they sign on. i mean, it's expected. you will be discreet. but broadly, what is it about the president and his family that you wish all americans could see? >> i think the thing that isn't caught by all the american people, which i wish everyone could see, is that not only is he committed to, you know, being a father and being a leader every minute of the day, he never -- he doesn't stop thinking about it. >> someone once told me the first family is like a retro almost 1950s american family, that there's a -- kind of a wholesomeness about them. they play board games, they play on the floor of the living room with the dog, the girls aren't allowed a lot of tv and social media. >> no tv during the week. i don't know how they do it. but, you know, i think -- i
wasn't born during the 1950s. my family and my parents were very similar to what president obama and what mrs. obama are for the girls. they're there for the kids but they also work extremely hard. and they somehow manage to sort of put it all together. >> let's talk about rope lines. they're a harrowing kind of thing. people clom morning, secret service, people with guns to right and left, also if you look closely this ballet. people give the president things from babies to books to mementos. and the stuff he can keep he quietly hands back to you. what happens to all that stuff? >> well, it is a lot of stuff, and you're right, sometimes they're babies, sometimes they're kids that, you know, they're handing off that aren't babies that shouldn't be handed off. you know, sometimes they're notes or they're gifts.
and typically, you know, i make a log a note of everything. if it's a letter from a constituent, we make sure that, you know, he gets a chance to look at it or read it. and then make sure that they get a response written. or if it's a gift, you know, it gets filed and registered and screened and processed. and then it ends up in its appropriate place. and it is like a dance a little bit, you know. you see all the agents, and you know, everyone sort of stepping with the appropriate foot, not trying to step on each other. >> did everyone just assume, am i correct in assuming everybody thought you were a secret service agent who didn't know you? >> por the first -- i think even now people still think i'm secret service. i like to believe it's because of my stature, right? >> yes, and your demeanor, the way you carry yourself. >> but it never bothered me. i think it's good for people to think that, you know, that the president or when he was --
while he was campaigning, that he had someone sort of watching out for him. >> finally, finish this sentence for me. the amazing thing about seeing presidents up close is? >> i would say the most amazing thing is, to see their candor, to see that they're real people. they have emotions, they have feelings. they go through similar things that you go through, that your parents went through. but i think it's also amazing that they're able to handle a lot of that stuff under the pressures of intense media scrutiny. and it's a fine balance. >> you've gotten that balance right, according to all reports. reggie love, it's great to see you. >> thank you, appreciate you having me here today. >> good luck as a young man entering the second half of your life. >> hopefully i get more than half, i'm only 29. >> you'll be all right, something tells me you're all right. when we come back we'll show you something we keep out back here this time of year, and the
♪ ♪ christmas time is here ♪ >> look where we are. we thought we would spend the 3 f1 last few minutes of the broadcast tonight here with you center. because we keep this great thing out back. and i want to thank our better 18 yeses for having my back during this segment. a word about this tree. there's no argument it has become the most famous christmas tree anywhere in the world. and by the way, it is dark now. they light it up wednesday night. something tells me you'll be
hearing a little bit about that broadcast between now and then. this started as the most modest little tree. 1931. the nation was crushed in the middle of the depression. we have searched the rockefeller plaza archives. this is the only photo we have ever been able to find. it was 19 feet tall. they made handmade paper garland to decorate the tree. a couple of people put empty tin cans on it as decorations. and the picture shows some morose-looking workers, they're actually picking up their paychecks. but actually the tree was put up to express their gratitude for having jobs during the depression. and of course look what it's turned into now. and the operation to get this tree here every year, this particular tree this year came from pennsylvania. 75 feet high. they think it's 75 years of age. they've tried counting the rings
and lost count after a while. but it has to be balanced and then they use five miles of cable to string the lights. they construct scaffolding around it, put the lights up, and then of course all that scaffolding has to come down. the lighting itself has become, as you know, a television extravaganza, as it will be again wednesday night. but it becomes, for this brief moment with the rink underneath it, here we are in the channel gardens between these two buildings, it becomes the focal point of the whole world and certainly here in midtown manhattan. so with that, until we light this thing up on wednesday night, for all the good folks who worked on the broadcast tonight and every week, thank you for joining us tonight for "rock center." we'll see you tomorrow evening on "nbc nightly news" and we hope you can join us again this very night a week from now.
for all of us, i'm brian williams in new york. at bank of america we're lending and investing in the people and communities who call greater washington, d.c. home. from supporting an organization that helps new citizens find their way... to proudly supporting our washington redskins... and partnering with a school that brings academic excellence to the anacostia community. because the more we do in greater washington, d.c. the more we help make opportunity possible.